Monday, July 18, 2011

Epic Fail

"What does epic mean?" Donovan asked the other day. He had been over at a friend's house and this friend was showing him some YouTube videos (cringe) of wipeouts on bikes (or something). He was told this was called "epic fail." Since then, if he would drop food on himself or mess something up, he'd say, "Fail!" Clearly he knew what "fail" meant, but epic...that eluded him. So he asked Joel what it meant and Joel, after thinking a moment, said, "It something that's even bigger than you could have imagined. It's really...big." So now Donovan looks for moments around the house/day that he could consider to be epic fails.

On Saturday, after I returned from an early, easy 4-mile walk with friends (since I had run 10 miles the day before - applaud me), Joel was loading bikes into the minivan because Ainsleigh and Donovan (but instigated by Ainsleigh) wanted to bike, rather than go for a hike. Did I want to come with them? I mentally weighed my exhaustion from the day before plus the morning walk against my feelings of obligation to spend active family time with my kids. So I shrugged and said sure. Also, no biggie, leave the bike trailer attached. I didn't recall it being that hard to pull.

We got to the trail and unloaded. As I began to pedal, two things crossed my mind: a) last time Gemma weighed less, and b) last time my legs didn't feel like jelly to begin with. Off to a good start!

Recently, I raised Ainsleigh's bike seat because it appeared as though her knees were punching her chin as she pedaled. I tried to explain how she would have a lot more power with a higher seat. In theory, she agreed. In practice...oy.

Now that the seat was higher, she couldn't be sitting AND have both feet flat on the ground. This upset her. I tried to show her how Joel and I don't have both feet on the ground. I demonstrated how you push down on a pedal and that lifts you up.

What ensued was a cycle of her screaming and crying and throwing her bike down, then agreeing to try it, then not following directions, then labeling that little shuffle forward as "I FELL OFF MY BIKE," then screaming and crying and throwing her bike down again.

I haven't seen that kind freakout/meltdown/lunacy for several years now. I thought we had outgrown it. Turns out, it was just being bottled up. I heard everything that day, from, "EVERYONE WANTS ME TO DO EVERYTHING AND I CAN'T!" to "EVERYONE HATES ME!" to "EVERYONE THINKS I'M THE WORST AT EVERYTHING!"

I have to admit that for the first 20 minutes or so, I was actually enjoying myself. Not enjoying her frustration, but enjoying that I stood there calm and collected, addressing each of the above concerns with a voice as loving as hers was deranged.
"No, we don't want you to do everything. When have I ever wanted you to play football or lacrosse?" (those were the two specific things she named - odd)

Me: Everybody hates you? I don't hate you.
Me: Your friends don't hate you. Your teacher doesn't help you.
Me: Who is that?
This exchange was particularly logical given that she had just ridden a mile and had to stop when the trail crosses a road.

I would greet the other cyclists/runners/walkers and think, "You're so glad you're not me." The only time I raised my voice was when she threw her bike to the other side of the trail, in front of oncoming cyclists/runners. THEN, I firmly told her she could yell and scream at me all she wants, but she may not, under ANY circumstances, endanger other people.

It was ugly. She wasn't even TRYING. She had a brief moment of panic at the pool a week ago when I was trying to teach her flip-turns and she was convinced she couldn't do it. I was showing her how to do an underwater somersault, but she was sure she was the worst at it (see a trend?). Once she actually did one (with assistance), she realized it wasn't the death-defying act she had envisioned. Since then, she has actually ASKED to go to the pool to practice them. But there on her bike on the trail, she wasn't even trying.

I began using the time consequence I've been using with Donovan, but instead of decreasing her bedtime, I began adding minutes to her reading time. She would scream and cry and I would say, "Settle down and just try it, or that's an extra 15 minutes of reading." After another 5 minutes, I'd repeat myself.

Long story, not very much shorter, by the time she actually rode her bike more than 5 yards, she had racked up 2 hours and 45 minutes of reading and lost her American Girl doll for a week (this came after she threw her bike toward more people), and I was fighting back tears of utter frustration.


But we rode another five miles, because we came for a bike ride. A bike ride that was HER IDEA. By the time Saturday afternoon hit, my legs felt like they were going to explode (note to self: look into really attractive compression socks for running), and my head wasn't too far behind.

What's with my kids - I post about being frustrated with one kid and the other completely obliterates any previous complaint I had by unleashing demonic tantrums?

There's a relatively happy ending, though. This morning, Ainsleigh was frustrated that EVERY friend we called to come over and play wasn't available. Meanwhile, Donovan and Gemma each had a friend over. Ainsleigh mournfully asked what she could do. Looking at my own to-do list, I threw out the idea of helping me clean the house and that I would tick off days of Charlotte's (the AG doll) sentence. I was surprised to hear her enthusiastically agree. Donovan loves to help me clean; Ainsleigh...not so much. But she diligently vacuumed all the bedrooms and the hall and cleaned both the kids' bathroom and my bathroom. And after she folds a giant basket of laundry, she will have done enough to get Charlotte back.

And I, in the meantime, can record how, in our family, we have learned and applied the term EPIC FAIL.


wanda said...

Not that I was ever very good at it, but theoretically that situation was tailor-made for reflective listening: "Wow, Ainsleigh, you are really feeling like everyone wants you to do things that you don't feel like you are good at." Sometimes they just want to be heard. I remember my mother doing that once (well, probably more than once, but once that I can remember) when I was an adult and feeling so good after the conversation. She hadn't talked me out of my feelings, but I knew she understood how I felt.